On approach to Uranus November 3rd 395 (2356 A.D.)
The hairs on the back of Megan Akiyama’s neck were still well and truly raised. They had been that way since the data stream had begun its download into her ‘sight from the yacht’s comcore. The stream arrived as a system-wide transmission from the American Union’s recently completed SETI IV interferometer, a cloud of 4096 individual units spread out over a hundred thousand kilometers of space between the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn.
The data had unfolded in her mind as she closed her eyes to allow the now locally stored simulation to activate. What she saw at first was her vision covered by a nondescript star field of which progressively smaller segments were expanded until only a single white star filled her field of view. The fuzzy patch of light from the baseline survey was replaced with a much clearer tiny disk, the star itself, imaged by the subsequent concentrated scan. At the same time, she noticed several small points of light appear at varying distances from the star, these then were the star’s planets, what the interferometer had been built to detect.
The star system itself was located at the coreward inner edge of the Sagittarius Arm a little over thirty-five thousand light-years away. The primary, a seemingly nondescript main-sequence star slightly larger and hotter than the Sun was distantly orbited by a pathetically dim red-dwarf so low in mass it had probably escaped being a brown dwarf by only the mass of Jupiter. None of this was at all worthy of any announcement system wide or otherwise.
However, it was only after the numerical planetary data began to read out for each world that Lauren’s hair had begun its upward movement, and why the array’s distributed intelligence had decided to pulse out this discovery as an immediate, complete system announcement.
Near 54 Piscium,
March 12th 836 (2797 A.D.)
Megan Akiyama simply couldn’t resist the urge to squint, as though the action would do her any bit of good. It was, ultimately, Human nature to try anything to detect what could not be easily seen no matter how improbable the chance of success.
After all, both her own vessel and the two “guide” ships as they had been so charitably referred to by the outpost governor had taken up positions over a hundred kilometers to either side of her aging but remarkably reliable corvette. The ship’s hulls, whatever they were made of, were black as pitch and were (probably) less than fifty meters long making the probability of her actually seeing them as close to zero as to make no difference. Still, she had squinted.
As she lowered her face from its craned position staring up through the transparent flexdiamond dome of the forward viewing lounge she flipped herself over with a light yet expertly accurate push of her hand to begin a leisurely retreat back down to the galley. Even with an empty stomach beginning to make itself known Megan couldn’t help but mull over thoes two so called guide ships.
“Humph, more like military escort I’d say” Megan mumbled under her breath.
The two cruisers had, so far as her ship and its sensors were concerned, appeared out of empty space with as little warning as it was possible to achieve, which was, she thought ruefully, absolutely none.
If she was being honest about the capabilities of Persistence of Wonder the name bestowed upon her present mode of transport before its maiden voyage by her father, the (former) Arch Duke of Sicard’s World. She would have to admit that had the cruisers not signaled their presence she would as yet be unaware of their existence despite the fact that they were both close enough to easily reduce her and her ship to a rapidly expanding cloud of free ions with a RAC (Relativistic Antimatter Cannon) or other such high powered offensive system.
As though being completely undetectable to her ship’s supposedly best-in-class sensor systems wasn’t mysterious enough, the properties of these escort vessels had continued to prove to be frustratingly implacable.
Not only did Wonder’s sensors insist on failing to read their presence as anything more than regions of space only a tenth of a degree above the local microwave background but there was apparently no detectible drive exhaust or even any form of star light reflection off their hulls.
Over the passing of the last century as her course had looped through a dozen plus systems in the spinward regions of the Human Volume she had seen a number of unique technologies and even in two cases had been privileged enough to witness the onsite and ongoing study of advanced artifacts from ancient Distributer cultures both in excess of four hundred thousand years old.
Despite this broad experience she had never encountered any technology currently in active use by Terrans near this apparent level of sophistication. It was simply uncanny. Certainly there were AI civilizations of Terran origin such as the Kentarus Machines and a small handful of still active Distributer cultures which possessed or had possessed technologies far in advance of modern Terran equipment, but either that technology was not shared or it was simply so advanced as to be incomprehensible.
The question of how this no-name outpost on the bleeding edge of the HV had come into possession of what appeared to be starships easily centuries if not more in advance of anything any other Terran system no matter how influential, had been able to acquire or reverse engineer simply didn’t add up.
Megan hated things that didn’t add up.
The last time that had happened was just before the coup and her families’ swift exile from the Vega System colonies, from home. She had only been eight at the time but she could easily tell the adults around her weren't telling her everything, or really much at all. Ever since then she made it a point to understand as much about her surroundings and the motivations of those around her as much as possible. This was why, despite her misgivings about the situation, she had accepted the oddly personal invitation sent by an astonishingly well collimated, given the distance of seven light years at the time, maser beam to divert her course towards the now obviously nearby yet otherwise nondescript K2 class star.
As Wonder had not yet begun its final deceleration burn for rendezvous with the outpost the ship was still in freefall and on relitivly fast approach over twelve million kilometers out from... whatever it was she was being brought here to be informed of.
Being effectively weightless was certainly something of a relief for Megan as she had spent the last several weeks blissfully unconscious in one of Wonder’s sixteen deadsleep capsules while her body underwent the crushing g-force of primary deceleration from her regular interstellar cruising velocity of eighty percent c.
It wasn’t that she felt relief from being away from the deadsleep capsule so much as she felt relief just at being fully conscious and aware of her ship. She hated the idea that it was necessary to be unaware of her surroundings at the critical period of transit from interstellar space down into the gravity well of a new star where any manner of unpleasant surprises could be lurking.